School’s almost out. You may be looking for great summer books for your teen. I had a chance to review Justina Chen Headley’s third book, North of Beautiful. And I highly recommend it to teen girls and their mothers.
Terra Rose Cooper, has a port wine stain covering the left side of her face. She tries to cover her birthmark with heavy makeup and undergoes numerous painful procedures in an attempt to remove it. In Terra’s mind, her birthmark defines her. She works out compulsively in an attempt to maintain a perfect body since she believes her figure is the only thing her boyfriend values about her.
Headley captures the voice of her teenage protagonist and weaves a tale that feels authentic and familiar to anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider. North of Beautiful explores the difference between physical and true beauty without ever sounding preachy.
While the teenage love story between Terra and a young Goth both with a cleft palate is a central plot element, North of Beautiful is also a mother-daughter love story. Terra’s mother is overweight, submissive and verbally-abused by her husband. Terra is not close with her mother. Even worse, she doesn’t respect her. As the story progresses, Terra comes to see herself and her mother differently. As mother and daughter reconnect, they both gain self-confidence and find strength in their relationship.
I would encourage moms to read the book with their daughters. It will remind you what it’s like to be a teenager and give you the opportunity to discuss some difficult topics including self-esteem, body image, sex, dating, verbal abuse and more.